Gary DeLaune, a broadcast reporter, died at the age of 88 on Sunday.
Gary DeLaune, a broadcast journalist, died Sunday at age 88. Credit: Courtesy / Shannon DeLaune

Gary DeLaune, one of San Antonio’s most noteworthy and beloved broadcast journalists, died Sunday at the age of 88. A legendary on-air voice of high school sports events, DeLaune enjoyed a decades-long career at KENS-TV and continued to call local football games through 2021.

DeLaune became only the second reporter inducted into the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame in 2015, joining his former KENS-TV and Express-News colleague Dan Cook, who was inducted in 1996. To view DeLaune’s induction video, click here.

But DeLaune’s place in history books was for his radio work as a much younger reporter in Dallas, where he worked at KLIF-AM, the market-leading broadcast news source in the city.

“My dad had great police sources, and the morning of President Kennedy’s motorcade through downtown Dallas a lady, he would never say who, called him with the big news tip,” said DeLaune’s son Shannon, the owner of a San Antonio insurance underwriting company. “She told him, ‘Shots have been fired in downtown Dallas.’ He was the first to break into programming and go on-air with a news bulletin with those very words: ‘Shots have been fired in downtown Dallas.'”

Gary DeLaune
Gary DeLaune

Within minutes, word traveled around the world that Kennedy had been mortally wounded as his open-air motorcade slowly made its way through downtown Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. Texas Gov. John Connally, traveling with the president in a convertible with their wives, Jacqueline Kennedy and Nellie Connally, also was shot but survived.

That was a Friday. Two days later, DeLaune was one of several newsmen in the basement of the Dallas police headquarters when Lee Harvey Oswald was shot to death by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby.

“I believe there was one other reporter, Hugh Aynesworth, and the photographer Bob Jackson, still alive last year who were there that afternoon, and they were planning a 60th anniversary reunion in Dallas later this year,” said DeLaune’s longtime friend Lon Oakley, a former USAA executive and retired Army officer who was a high school journalism intern at KLIF when Kennedy came to Dallas.

“I was in a pool of student journalists waiting for President Kennedy’s motorcade to arrive at the Dallas Trade Mart, and I was actually selected to ask him a question,” Oakley recalled. “Of course, the president never arrived there.”

Oakley recalled the question he never got to ask: “Mr. President, when will we land a man on the moon?” He later authored his own account of the infamous day in Dallas, Two Deaths and an Arrest: Nov. 22, 1963.

A historical video titled One Day, Two Tragedies recounts the reporting and witness accounts by DeLaune and many others, including the fatal shooting of Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit by Oswald less than an hour after the assassination on a street in the nearby Oak Cliff neighborhood. Oswald was subsequently arrested inside the Texas Theatre after a brief struggle.

After a brief time working in Houston, DeLaune moved to San Antonio in the early 1970s to help cover the San Antonio Spurs, who had newly arrived from their previous home in Dallas. He later joined the sports broadcasting team at KENS.

Breaking news once again placed DeLaune at the scene of a big story in 1979 at the Battle of Flowers Parade, where DeLaune and other KENS reporters were covering the annual Fiesta event. Ira Attebury, a military veteran who had parked a small RV along the parade route, opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle and shotgun. Six police officers were wounded, two parade goers were killed and more than 50 others were wounded before Attebury was found dead in the RV.

“When you sat my dad and mom down together they would start telling these incredible stories, like that day on the parade route,” Shannon DeLaune said. “Back in the Dallas days, my mom was the supervising nurse at St. Paul’s Hospital. She told us about the day Jack Ruby brought in the bouncer from his burlesque club with a knife sticking out of his belly.”

Most in San Antonio knew DeLaune not for events in Dallas, but for his passion and love for high school sports.

“Gary’s energy and passion were infectious and unbridled. I was so fortunate to work with him at KENS 5 and to remain friends over the years,” said Mary Ullmann Japhet, now the principal at Japhet Media, a public relations firm. “He was everywhere, from covering JFK’s assassination and the Fiesta sniper to calling high school football games. He personified hustle, energy and love. He truly loved his family, his friends, this community and his work.”

Former Express-News sports columnist and editor Richard Oliver, now an executive with Visit SA, posted this note on Facebook:

“Gary was a consummate storyteller, a studier of people, a playful manipulator of the language, a patient mentor and a fine companion over the phone, at a ballgame or eating breakfast with other coots at Denny’s. As a legendary newsman and broadcaster, he was on site for some of life’s most remarkable headlines, yet he treated my life moments as if they were leading off a newscast.”

DeLaune was preceded in death by his wife of 54 years, Jo Fern Taylor, in 2018. He is survived by son Shannon and daughter-in-law Holly; daughter Andrea DeLaune-Holley, the director of marketing at the San Antonio Airport, and son-in-law Robert, and several grandchildren.

Funeral services are pending.

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Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard, co-founder of the San Antonio Report, is now a freelance journalist.